Editor’s Note: This extensive piece about far-right political movements in Western Europe appeared in the June 2011 issue of New Internationalist. Although Roma people reside throughout Europe, many move to Western European countries from Eastern Europe hoping to escape poverty and violence, only to find that fascism, racism, and exclusion know no borders. As mainstream parties more openly mimic far-right bigotry, the future for Roma people in Europe looks grim.
Political commentators often argue that the far right thrives because mainstream politicians have failed to discuss immigration, for fear of offending minority ethnic groups. But listen to the tough-talking statements made by Europe’s political leaders in recent years and you may question this logic. Angela Merkel has claimed that ‘multiculturalism has utterly failed’ in Germany. Nicholas Sarkozy has said that France does not want immigration ‘inflicted’ on itself. Silvio Berlusconi has stated that Italy is not, and should never be, a ‘multi-ethnic country’.
An insurgent radical rightwing strand pollutes representative politics in most nations across the continent
It is not just politicians on the conservative right who seek to make political capital from anti-immigrant sentiment. In Britain, Labour’s former Immigration Minister, Phil Woolas, looked to ‘make white folk angry’ by exploiting racial and religious divisions in his 2010 general election campaign. Dutch Labour chair Liliane Ploumen raised the ‘self-designated victimization’ and disproportionate levels of ‘criminality and trouble-making’ of immigrants in the Netherlands.